Monday, August 6, 2018

Charlotte Rae (1926-2018)

To millions of teenagers growing up in the 70's & 80's, Charlotte Rae will always be Mrs. (Edna) Garrett, housekeeper-turned-house-mother. The actress essayed the role for nearly a decade between Diff'rent Strokes and its spin-off, The Facts of Life.

Prior to Strokes, Charlotte Rae had been a 2-time Tony Award winner, and made her television debut on The US Steel Hour in the 50's. She also was part of the ensemble of Nat Hiken's police comedy, Car 54, Where Are You?, as the wife of officer Leo Schnauzer (Al Lewis). Her standup act got her on the usual variety shows  (i.e. Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin) of the era.

In the winter of 1976, she was part of Rich Little's repertory company on his NBC variety show. Prior to that, she'd been on ABC's Hot L Baltimore, a Norman Lear entry that didn't last very long, either. After arriving at NBC, Fred Silverman asked Lear to develop Strokes, which was essentially built around Gary Coleman, more so than the adults around him, but Rae got her big break as a result. Facts of Life soon followed, but it would be Rae's last series.

The last I'd heard she'd appeared on Hallmark Channel's The Worst Witch, which I think would be her last TV role.

Speaking of Tony Awards, Charlotte appeared at the 1982 event, and performed, complete with Irish brogue, "When The Idle Poor Become The Idle Rich", from "Finian's Rainbow":

Rest in peace, Charlotte.

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